The Suunto Ambit 3 has been on the market for several years now, and Suunto has just released their new Spartan Ultra GPS watch which seems destined to take over the Ambit’s rein as Suunto’s premium high performance GPS watch. With a colour display, touch screen interface and heaps of other features such as step tracking, recovery time and vibration alerts (just to name a few) it’s easy to see why this will be the most advanced watch to date from Suunto. With a price tag of over one thousand dollars you would not be alone in thinking that this is a lot to pay for a GPS multi-sport watch, especially when you consider that the Ambit 3 is now priced at just over $500. If your budget is limited, then the Suunto Spartan Sport Model may be a more suitable choice. The Spartan Sport will save you about $300 over the Ultra model as it’s priced at $734.95 Canadian. The Spartan also weighs in at 3 grams lighter; just 70g / 2.47oz.
Similar to the Ambit series of watches but the options are limitless with the Spartan.
The Suunto Spartan Ultra All Black Titanium watch that I’ve been testing for the last few months is basically the same size and weight as the Garmin Fenix3 (which we previously reviewed) but 16 grams lighter than the Ambit3, and a few mm thinner. The Spartan Ultra’s battery life (in training mode) is comparable to that of the Fenix3 and Ambit 3 at 16hrs. However, in standard time mode it will only last 15 days, whereas the Fenis3 will hold its charge for up to 6 weeks.
One of many watch faces to choose from on the Spartan Ultra, complete with secondary information such as the date and elevation.
The user interface of the Spartan is super simple to use as it’s been streamlined down to only three buttons instead of the previous 5 on the Ambit3. (Less is more after all.) If you prefer, you can also navigate by interacting with the built-in touch screen display. While I found the touch screen worked well most of the time, it did occasionally have a slight lag from when you touch it, to when the actions on screen take place. If this proves bothersome then at least you have a choice between screen and button navigation for most features. The colour display is also one of the cool new features on the Spartan, however it’s not used excessively at this point. Hopefully this will change as apps are developed and released down the road.
A few of my other favourite features of the new Spartan Ultra are: The step tracking feature; which accurately tracks your steps and spits out totals and other metrics. This was a key feature that was missing from previous Ambit watches and has only been available on the Suunto Traverse, which is still one of my favourite watches (read that review here). Similarly, “recovery time” was also available on the Traverse watch and is also now included on the Suunto Spartan Ultra. The other feature I am happy to see integrated into the Spartan watches is vibration alerts. This feature is super handy when you don’t want your wrist pinging ever 5 seconds for social media alerts. A subtle vibration lets you know to look down at your watch without disrupting your friends and colleagues.
The Suunto Spartan Ultra is a beautiful watch and on looks alone it rivals any other GPS watch on the market today. There are many features that make this a great GPS watch such as the three-button navigation which is minimalist in nature and easy to use. The colour touch screen also adds to its ease of use and provides a little ‘wow factor’. However, while the hardware delivers, the software is still lacking features that are already available on competing brand’s watches. Since receiving the Spartan Ultra in late September, there have been two software upgrades which added much needed functionality, some of it rather basic such as a stopwatch. The software versions installed were 1.1.30 with the following hardware and software specs to give you a baseline for this review: hardware 1740G1, GPS 5.7.9-P1_5.7.9, Touch 2.0.27, and Bluetooth 2.3.17. On October 14th, the software was updated to version 1.2.4 with a major upgrade scheduled for early November that I am eagerly anticipating. So, as you can see Suunto is working very hard to get the software up to speed, but here are some of the features which are not yet available, to give you an idea as to where things stand in the current version:
This is just a partial list of what the Suunto Spartan Ultra is currently missing, and as you can see there are some important features in there. In true Suunto fashion, however, I’m sure once the major software upgrades are complete the functionality will rival and exceed that of its competitors. Rumours also have it that future hardware upgrades will include an optical heart rate sensor built into the watch itself. Nice!
Overall I am happy with the way the Spartan Ultra currently operates. The touch screen is pretty cool, and the larger colour screen is a huge bonus. I am still missing the crucial features that I would have expected to be standard on the Sparta Ultra at release time. The potential is huge for the Spatan Ultra, and when the software is complete this watch will easily rival the Garmin Fenix3. Until then, Suunto has a lot of ground to catch up on.
If you’re a total tech geek and just need the latest and greatest gadget and don’t mind being an early adopter, then I’d recommend the Spartan Ultra. If you already have a GPS watch such as the Ambit3 and can hold out a little longer then I would recommend doing so, as $1k+ is a lot of dinero to pay for a product that’s yet to reach its full potential. Suunto never disappoints, and the Spartan line of watches will be no different, we just have to be patient.
Price: $1,034.95 CAN / $799US
Weight: 73g / 2.58oz
Dimensions: 50x50x17mm / 1.97x1.97x0.67"
Battery life: 16hrs in training mode, 15 days in time mode
Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in below and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation. You'll need to login or register before you can comment but it only takes a few seconds, then you're good to go.
We built this backcountry skiing community for you, the passionate skier, and hope you enjoy the hard work we put into all the reviews, routes, videos, and posts we create. It’s been free from day one but that doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable resource. If you enjoy this website and value the content we create for you, then please support Backcountry Skiing Canada by donating today. Thank you!